The Florida Department of Transportation is reevaluating its multibillion-dollar plans to improve Interstate 4 both north and south of the "I-4 Ultimate" project in Central Florida.
What You Need To Know
- The Transportation Department is looking at smaller-cost projects for Beyond the Ultimate
- Beyond the Ultimate extends I-4 improvements from Volusia County to Polk County
- Scrapping larger projects could speed up improvements to I-4, officials say
- The plan is designed to save money, reduce congestion and improve safety, officials say
Department officials said they hope the new approach will save money but still deliver on reducing congestion and improving safety along the Central Florida corridor.
“Westbound gets very congested headed in, and eastbound is bad on the way back in the afternoon,” Volusia County motorist Rich Clouser said. “It's pretty tough."
After the completion of the 21-mile I-4 Ultimate project from Kirkman Road to State Road 434, FDOT has further plans, which it calls "Beyond the Ultimate," that extends the highway’s work from Kirkman Road south through Disney World and Osceola County to U.S. Highway 27 in Polk County, a total of 20 miles.
Beyond the Ultimate is also designed to improve 20 miles of I-4 to the north of Ultimate, from State Road 434 in Longwood north through Sanford and over to State Road 472 in Volusia County.
“I would like to see them move north and get it widened it up and give us some more room to run," Clouser said.
Scrapping some of the more costly Beyond the Ultimate plans means elevated I-4 lanes that were designed to be built between State Road 528 and U.S. Highway 192 may no longer be a part of the project.
"At one point, (FDOT) wanted to talk about elevating it. Now they're not talking about elevating it,” said Seminole County Commissioner Bob Dallari, who also sits on the MetroPlan Orlando board. “They’re talking about managing it through different types of lanes going into Osceola County. That kind of makes sense, do it in phases."
Right now, FDOT said only two of the five Beyond the Ultimate segments are tentatively funded, and that money wouldn't come for another 10 years.
The smaller-price-tag projects could still include toll or carpool lanes to help manage traffic.
"I think the problem that we ran into years ago is that we're looking into one massive, big project," Dallari said.
The state is working through a process called value engineering, FDOT spokesperson Allison Colburn said.
“The value engineering process looks to reduce overall costs while still providing the same safety benefits and congestion relief as originally planned,” Colburn said.
A change in rules and new technology is allowing FDOT to reassess its Beyond the Ultimate plans, she said.
“With access to a wider array of traffic management solutions, the value engineering process will make it easier to find funding for needed improvements on I-4, which will help deliver each project as soon as possible, as the funding becomes available,” Colburn said.
Dallari said he hopes working with other local leaders, they can get funding from the federal government for the smaller-cost projects.
"I think it's going happen sooner than what people think, because we are breaking it into smaller sections," he said.
FDOT has three interim projects already in the works for the Beyond the Ultimate area: improvements at the ChampionsGate and Sand Lake Road intersections and building a new intersection at Daryl Carter Parkway. FDOT is also finishing construction on an extra lane of I-4 east near Lake Mary.
Clouser said he hopes Beyond the Ultimate eventually brings relief to his commute home to Lake Helen.
"At least I could maybe get to the house by dinner time,” Clouser said.